4 min

Sexing birds and Judas goats

Making sexuality magical and powerful

Credit: Capital Xtra files

I went to my first Toronto Pride last month, and perhaps had unreasonably high expectations for this event. In my mind, I envisioned a sexy cavalcade of flamboyant queers, rampant camaraderie and a visible sense of community.

Certainly, there was a smattering of leather boys, a sprinkling of luscious dykes, and the trannies and drag queens adding that extra je ne sais quoi. Zelda’s leather brunch was a hoot, and the 519 beer garden was a fabulous example of women’s space – especially the casual nudity and innocently hot kissing going on in the midst of things. It’s easier to sex a bird when it’s in full feather.

But what stayed with me was the blandness: huge uniform crowds, a considerable amount of middle-class rudeness, processions of politicians seeking office and rolling ads that didn’t even pretend to float. A prime example was the Sarah Brightman periaktoi mounted on a little truck driven by two people stuffed inside with all the windows rolled up. They peered out like they were on a safari and were nervous about the monkeys tearing the roof off.

The question of integration kept coming up. I heard a compelling argument about how integration and corporate sponsorship are good things because if the rights and presence of homosexual people are ubiquitous in society, then they will be more permanent and inalienable. I found it hard to disagree.

It took a while for me to figure out why that argument didn’t sit so easily. Although I do agree that integration can be a good thing, I kept coming back to the difference between integration and assimilation. The two words can be interchanged in some cases, but there is an enormous difference in meaning to consider.

Integration means bringing together people of different cultural or racial groups into unrestricted and equal association. Desegregation was an attempt to address injustice through integration and it became a driving force for the civil rights movement.

Assimilation on the other hand is the process whereby a minority group gradually adopts the customs and attitudes of the prevailing culture. It’s a melting pot mentality and there is danger in complacency about it, so what becomes of those who don’t assimilate gracefully?

A new bride told me, “The vast majority of homosexuals are pretty mainstream, and that’s fine. That’s why it’s called mainstream after all.” We go about our business, the only difference between us and them being who we choose to love. An awful lot of these mainstream folks work tirelessly toward our acceptance, advocating, litigating, licking stamps and staffing the phone lines. They are a big part of why we are where we are today.

Then there’s the other part: the people who don’t pass and never will. The people who don’t want to be like everybody else. The flamers and bull dykes, the trannies, FTMs, daddies and bears. The renegades who define their differences by who they choose to fuck and how, by visibility and through fearless demonstration. Sure, love is part of it, but freedom to express individual sexuality is the point, not freedom to be like everybody else.

Every year after Ottawa Pride I hear variations on the complaint that the media portrays us as a bunch of drag queens and transsexuals. Well, what is wrong with that? Are we as frightened of our sexual radicals as the straight majority? Have we forgotten that not long ago any form of homosexuality was considered radical – and illegal?

The visible queers are and have always been at the vanguard of our movement, every one brave enough to declare themselves moves us forward. But it is the radicals, the visibly different, who take the biggest leap of faith. They are often the ones who are singled out for bashing, who are discriminated against, whose lives are a perpetual civil rights demonstration. They don’t necessarily choose this for political reasons, it is imposed upon them by a society pathologically confused about sex. And by the simple act of being themselves they give our culture life – all culture, not just the homosexual communities.

What we are talking about is fucking: positive, healthy, consensual sex between adults. Sexuality being one facet of expression common to every human being, whether celibate or slutty, Christian or cannibal. Dressing it up and playing with it doesn’t make it wrong. On the contrary, it gives it life, makes it magical – and powerful.

Imagine a society that tabooed a different facet of the human animal, say eating, and you’ll get an idea of how crazy society has been about sex. We would eat alone behind closed doors, avoid talking about food with our families. A body of legislation would grow to define morally correct eating, when and how children should be fed, and under what circumstances a meal is considered legal. Vegetarians would be denounced as perverts, and gourmands would be thrown in jail. Anorexics would be canonized. All along we would be denying something that gives us strength and life.

In the demonstrations after the Stonewall riots, the Homophile Society requested that marchers dress like conservative ladies and gentlemen, women in skirts, men in suits. When viewed within the context of those times it makes sense. But what about the Drag Queens who resisted at Stonewall, some being beaten and arrested for what amounts to personal expression?

We have grown in our methods since then, haven’t we? Our hard-won rights will apply to all of us, not just those who fit neatly into the classification of “normal.” We know that even though there are only a few black sheep in any herd, the other sheep tend to follow them.

So when you’re shuffling through the barricades on the way to celebrate this summer, hug a drag queen, kiss a transsexual and be glad that they exist because they help free us to be fully human, whatever permutation our plumage turns out to be.

And while you’re at it, dress yourself up, play a little with expectations, make people question what is normal, and be proud of our diversity – it makes us all richer.

Otherwise our success may become a Judas goat, soothing us while leading us out of the pen and down the chute to the abattoir. At the last second, the mainstream may be allowed to escape by a side-gate, while those who aren’t so lucky are left for slaughter.